There are so many questions floating around out there about what kind of paper an artist should use for drawing. Printer paper is fine for a beginner, but it lacks that beautiful, solid quality that an artist looks for, and it’s super bright white!
The truth is that there’s no right or wrong answer to paper types; it’s all about what the artist wants. This sounds very vague, I know, but it’s the truth. The best thing an artist can do is go out and get a variety of different papers. For the intent of this post, I’m going to talk about paper for graphite drawing, as that’s my specialty.
Here are some main points that you want to consider when selecting your paper:
- Do I want a heavy texture?
- Do I need to erase a lot?
- Will I need smooth blending (such as for a baby’s face)?
- Do I want white, ivory, gray, etc?
- What sort of effects do I want to achieve?
Generally, there’s a picture on the front of packs of paper that show you exactly what kind of texture you can expect to get, but I’ll touch on some paper types that I’ve used, and I’ll post examples of what shading on each type will look like.
Another question that comes up often is the weight of paper. What does weight mean? 80lb paper vs 110lb paper? Wow, it’s starting to look very confusing!
Don’t worry, it’s not confusing at all. The higher the weight value, the thicker and stiffer the paper will be. The Bristol paper that I prefer is 100lb, but you can get 110lb.
Vellum – 100lb
I’m not going to lie – I don’t like vellum. Sure, it has its place! I just don’t personally like it. It’s very thick paper, which is good for scoring and texture, but it’s difficult to use for shading, impossible to get a smooth blend, and it doesn’t always allow for full erasure of errors. If you’re looking for a somewhat more textured or rugged look, this is good paper to use. You can see its rougher texture in the photo.
Strathmore Bristol – 100lb
Smooth bristol is a favourite type of paper for many graphite artists. It allows for smooth blending, but has enough tooth to it that it really grabs the graphite. It’s strong, durable paper that can be scored, erased on, and somewhat abused. I do most of my work on Bristol paper.
Watercolor Paper – 140lb
Don’t be held up on names – paper is paper, so use it for what you want! Watercolor paper is extremely textured and works great for watercolor pencils! For graphite, it’s a great choice for an expressive drawing, or for scenery and plants. It adds a bit of a classic effect to your work that you might enjoy!
Pastel Paper – 80lb
Pastel paper varies depending on the type of pastel. It can look like that grainy coloured paper that you used in school as a child, or it can have a very vinyl-like texture. In any case, it is thick and textured, which it has to be in order to capture the pastels!
Printer Paper – 20lb
Printer paper, lined paper, graphing paper… Whatever falls into this category. Excellent for quick sketches, outlines, practicing, but not so great for a polished work. As I said before, it’s not very forgiving paper, and it just doesn’t have a nice quality to it. Some printer paper is also a little shiny, which is something that graphite doesn’t need any help in being! I took a picture of the printer paper bent so that you can see how shiny it is.